A 40-year-old wave rider from South Africa claimed his second Mavericks International surfing championship on Friday, as he led two dozen competitors carving into crests up to five stories tall in northern California’s famed surf contest.
Grant “Twiggy” Baker, who hails from Durban and clinched his first Mavericks victory in 2006, was awarded a US$12,000 grand prize at the end of the day-long competition, which draws tens of thousands of fans each year to the sleepy coastal town of Half Moon Bay, 48km south of San Francisco.
“Twiggy’s timing, when he’s paddling into big waves, is probably better than anyone else I’ve seen. He has a knack for putting himself as deep as possible and still making it,” fellow contestant Mark Healey said in a statement posted on the Mavericks Web site.
The year’s race, which organizers had considered postponing due to fierce winds earlier in the week, featured waves between 12m 15m high, breaking 800m off Pillar Point Harbor, a contest spokesman said.
Skies were slightly overcast and winds were ideally low the day of the competition, spokesman Gary Bayless said from Mavericks Surf Shop, the competition headquarters.
Stormy weather has led to monster waves in California and Hawaii, and caused treacherous conditions that forced the cancellation of a separate surf competition in the Aloha State.
Two dozen professional surfers hand-picked by organizer Jeff Clark compete in the California event, which launched in 1999. Surfing started at 8am local time and wrapped up at about sunset.
Shane Dorian, 41, from Hawaii, placed second to claim US$6,000 in prize money, followed by Californian Ryan Augenstein, 31, who received US$5,000 for finishing third. The other contestants received US$1,000 each.
Spectators of the monster swells have been barred from the beach and surrounding towering cliffs since 2010, when the roaring waves injured multiple onlookers.
“The giant waves of Maverick’s generate surges that leave the small beach at Maverick’s underwater, with no beach to stand on,” the Web site says.
Event-goers now gather outside on the grounds of the Oceano Hotel and Spa in nearby Princeton Harbor, where the competition is streamed live on giant screens. Last year, about 30,000 people watched from the hotel parking lot, Bayless said.